People living with HIV/AIDs, have decried the increased stigma and discrimination from the public.
Lilian Mworekwa from the International Community of Women living with HIV in Eastern Africa, said that she almost lost her life to discrimination and stigma.
Mworekwa noted that stigma and discrimination psychologically tortures them, to the extent of contemplating for suicide.
She made the remarks during the launch of the Philly Bongole Lutaaya Awards at Hotel Africana in Kampala. Mworekwa, noted that stigma can make one hate him/herself, fail to take his or her drugs, among others.
“You can think a lot of things, we are psychologically tortured at a time we need compassion and care, many think of carrying out suicide, but we just keep strong to protect thousands that have believed in us,” she said.
Media Personality and celebrated events Mcee, Edwin Katamba, alias Mc Kats, revealed that because of stigma and backbiting, he wanted to kill himself while on a musical tour in London.
“I don’t know if you saw that video when I was in London. I wanted to commit suicide and most people never knew where this was coming from. I’ve lived with this disease, I’ve heard people talk, backbite me. So when I was in London I was like I think I’ve seen it all, after all, I’m gonna die any time soon but somehow somewhere, I kept thinking of my kids,” Kats said.
He added, “I have had front page by media that Kats infects Fille [Mutoni] with HIV. You don’t know what her family went through, what my kids went through, some presenters even on live TV accused me of infecting my baby mama (Fille) with HIV. I was talking to UGANET, telling them to sue these people but again I was like when you sue it’s going to look like it’s selfish.”.
Major Rubaramira Ruranga, one of the person’s who has lived with HIV/Aids for the last 30 years, said that HIV victims, have for years faced stigma and discrimination even when time’s have changed.
“Even when we know we are saying stigma has reduced, when we know that we are saying there’s treatment, care, and support, we are still experiencing stigma and discrimination.”
The Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) Executive Director, Dorah Kiconco, noted that Stigma is still real, saying “So by us coming together as a community, we are coming to recognize those that may not be with us but we are also coming to put in the effort and the strength to fight harder and achieve it.”
The Philly Lutaaya Awards.
The awards, organised by Uganda AIDS commission in partnership with Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET), National Forum of people living with HIV/AIDS (NAFOPHANU), International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA), Uganda Key Population Consortium (UKPC)and Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation (FOCAGIFO)with support from TASO, are aimed at celebrating courage, fierce fight against stigma and exceptional leadership.
These were launched under the theme “Ending HIV Stigma, Promoting Resilient Communities”
They are under three categories namely, the Philly Lutaaya ‘Personality of the year, Upcoming Philly Lutaaya personalities, and Institutions challenging stigma.
Kiconco called upon communities of people leaving with HIV, leaders in the struggle to nominate themselves or any other person that has walked in Philly Lutaaya’s footsteps.
She said that, the awards, will recognize all those who pioneered to give AIDS a human face amidst stigma, discrimination, denial and ignorance but also recognize those who are upcoming plus the institutions that continue to lead in HIV-related service delivery.
“Celebrating leadership also comes at a time when Uganda has just launched a policy guideline on ending HIV stigma – a policy that seeks to provide an enabling environment for the elimination of all forms of HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in Uganda,” she said.
Kiconco added, “We have launched the Philly Lutaaya website, which is a platform where the nominations and voting will be taking place.”